Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Little Things...

photos from another STANLEY VILLAGE expedition
 Getting used to a new climate, a new landscape, different air, and a new language are big things. Meeting new people and learning new ways of doing things at work are big things. Moving house and having all-new furniture and dishes are also expected to be hard.

But I find the little tiny things to be the things that affect me. It's the little things that you don't really prepare for, don't think about, and yet interact with every day that jolt you out of normalcy. They aren't bad - they just require some noticing, some effort, and sometimes - just some laughter.

So what are they?
Here are a few....

1. light switches.
You know? These are quick to get used to - and are easier on the eyes. Kinda fun to have a button to push - it's really not a "switch" at all, actually.

2. hot water switches  buttons
These little buggers are both fabulous and a royal pain. In order to have access to the hot water in your shower, you have to flip this little red light on first (see in photo above). Every. Single. Time. Why is that FABULOUS? Because no burnt baby fingers, that's why. The water is never hot from the tap in the bathroom until you turn on the water from a very high-up button (which is outside of the bathroom) first. Baby proofing made easy. Why is it a PAIN? A few times of hopping in the shower only to realize that there is NO HOT WATER... and you have to hop back out, freezing and dripping water all over the marble and wood floors to flip that button.... well... you get the picture.

3. outlets
While we didn't ship most of our electronics (mommy did SOME research before moving), we did keep a few. But the voltage isn't the same - so it's not as simple as getting an outlet converter - you also have to get a voltage converter if you don't want to blow up the equipment. (luckily a lesson learned from neighbors) Also - these are GREEN. See that little button above each socket? Yep. That turns the electricity on and off. Just flip the switch - and you save electricity without unplugging each time. Brilliant.

4. walking
left side, left side, left side, left side.... Wonder if I'll ever get used to that?

5. water
Ok. So this is something that's a bit of a mystery. Is the tap water ok to drink in Hong Kong? Many articles we found (ahem - via google) state that the HK water quality is perfectly fine to drink. However, pipes etc. can sometimes not be so great. BUT. Everyone here (EVERYONE) boils water before they drink it. Seriously inconvenient! (Once in a restaurant, the waitress insisted on giving us boiling hot water for "the baby" because it was healthier. Never mind burning her tongue.) So - what do we do? We got our water tested, of course. Yes, I did. And it turned up a bunch of metals - so what did we do then? Aya. I suppose we could do further research and find the right filter - but by that point, I was kinda done with worrying about water so we just pay for those big bottles and refill them each week. But now we aren't getting the fluoride and natural minerals that are in regular water - so I don't really know. Still a mystery.

6. music
I have had to learn itunes. And make many mistakes. And re-learn itunes. And learn how to sync it to my speaker-system in my classroom (ack!) in order to play music. At home? I just let Jasper be in charge.

7. coffee
No. Half-n-half. Anywhere. 'nough said.

8. toilets
I have used dozens of toilets by this point, and not one of them is porcelain. Not one. I wonder if Hong Kongers have a different saying than the "porcelain God"?  I wonder if it's because there are SO many people here in China that having porcelain toilets piling up at the dump would be just way too much - or maybe it's that we all live in high rises? I don't know. At first - I really felt like I was in a portable or trailer or a campsite.... but I'm getting used to it. I like that it's lower to the ground and isn't so prominent in the bathroom space.

9. tipping
Well, I'm learning that sometimes you do, and sometimes you don't. It seems that the 10% service charge included in (all) restaurant bills does not go to the wait-staff but rather to the establishment itself. It's just a thing. And all restaurants do it. I've learned that indeed you are expected to tip (no set amount like in America) at nicer restaurants - but not at dai pai dongs or small local places.

10. cooking
Yeah, I still have NO idea what these symbols mean on my oven - and have to look up the conversion from F to C each time.


  1. So, I want to see a picture of what the toilets look like ther. You didn't mention what they were made of, and you have me very curious. Some of the things that are different there sound pretty slick. It would be great if we had them here also. it sounds like they are more environmentally efficient than we are here. I would probably forget to turn on the hot water 95% of the time though. It really is beautiful there, and you have adjusted and made friends so very quickly!

  2. Left side walking??? Probably because HK belonged to the British. Loved the pictures. Especially the one of you doing the "kimchee squat" while talking about toilets. Very cute!

  3. "left side, left side, left side, left side.... Wonder if I'll ever get used to that?"

    Hi Tiffany! Ever wonder why we have to use one side or the other anyway? Why can't we choose? In psychology it's called "chirality" (handedness). Seems that, long ago, we /all/ drove on the left side (if we were mostly right-handed, that is). We also /sailed/ on the left side. That leaves your right hand free to greet someone (or fight someone) - and has to do with social trust probably (and ultimately social convention). Ships stay on the left because the steering oar used to be affixed to the right; land vehicles stay on the left (on island nations) because horse-drawn wagons are easier to control if you're right-handed and you keep left. But... continents and the times were a-changing... bigger wagons and industry meant no more leading your horses (so you needed to pass folks on the right now, not the left). Plus Napoleon it seems was left-handed and found good reasons to enforce right-hand drive, as a result, on the continent (e.g. we're less apt to shake our right fist - meaning let's fight - at someone on your left).

    But... some places have a "Gulliver" solution... go down the center in the morning or evening (when it's high traffic) and let everybody else go on either side of you. What a difference that would make for our rush hour traffic jams!! Plus, no matter your chiral preference, the middle of the road is your happy place!!